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Boldly imagined scenarios, disappointing payoffs.

A collection of odd tales by the author of Bird Box (2014) and other books.

Returning to his made-up city of Samhattan, Michigan, Malerman offers five stories about pitiable lost souls. In “Doug and Judy Buy the House Washer™,” a bickering couple of considerable wealth tries out “the most luxurious item on the market,” shutting themselves inside a large glass tube in their living room as the house and all its contents are submerged in miracle cleaning goop. As revealing letters and other secret items swoosh up against the glass, they contest their troubled past—and, unable to shut off the machine, panic over their immediate future. In “The Jupiter Drop,” a rich man estranged from his family confronts his sad existence on an “interstellar thrill ride” that has him free-fall through Jupiter’s stormy atmosphere inside a luxury apartment with transparent walls and a “virtual mom.” “Half the House Is Haunted” charts the long-term psychological effects of an 8-year-old girl’s ceaseless efforts to scare her 6-year-old brother in their creepy home. In “Egorov,” the best of the stories, set around the turn of the 20th century in Samhattan’s Little Russia, two identical 24-year-old triplets use their ghostly presences to find the murderer of their brother. And in “Argyle,” a dying man celebrates getting through his life without acting on his murderous desires. “Is there any greater sign of a father's love than not drowning his children in the tub?” Malerman never runs out of wild premises or the knack for ridiculing the human condition à la Mad magazine. But these long stories reveal his tendency to drive his concepts into the ground. Most of them go on and on before petering out without a satisfying conclusion.

Boldly imagined scenarios, disappointing payoffs.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2023

ISBN: 9780593237861

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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Small-town claustrophobia and intimacies alike propel this twist-filled psychological thriller.

The loss of her police officer father and the discovery of an abandoned car in a local lake raise chilling questions regarding a young woman’s family history.

When Hazel Sharp returns to her hometown of Mirror Lake, North Carolina, for her father’s memorial, she and the other townspeople are confronted by a challenging double whammy: As they’re grieving the loss of beloved longtime police officer Detective Perry Holt, a disturbing sight appears in the lake, whose waterline is receding because of an ongoing drought—an old, unidentifiable car, which has likely been lurking there for years. Hazel temporarily leaves her Charlotte-based building-renovation business in the capable hands of her partners and reconnects with her brothers, Caden and Gage; her Uncle Roy; her old fling and neighbor, Nico; and her schoolfriend, Jamie, now a mother and married to Caden. Tiny, relentless suspicions rise to the metaphorical surface along with that waterlogged vehicle: There have been a slew of minor break-ins; two people go missing; and then, a second abandoned car is discovered. The novel digs deeper into Hazel’s family history—her father was a widow when he married Hazel’s mother, who later left the family, absconding with money and jewels—and Miranda, a consummate professional when it comes to exposing the small community tensions that naturally arise when people live in close proximity for generations, exposes revelation after twisty revelation: “Everything mattered disproportionately in a small town. Your success, but also your failure. Everyone knows might as well have been our town motto.”

Small-town claustrophobia and intimacies alike propel this twist-filled psychological thriller.

Pub Date: April 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781668010440

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Marysue Rucci Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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